Tut Underwood

Reporter, Producer

Tut Underwood is producer of  South Carolina Focus, a weekly news feature. A native of Alabama, Tut graduated from Auburn University with a BA in Speech Communication.  He worked in radio in his hometown before moving to Columbia where he received a Master of Mass Communications degree from the University of South Carolina, and worked for local radio while pursuing his degree.  He also worked in television. He was employed as a public information specialist for USC, and became Director of Public Information and Marketing for the South Carolina State Museum. His hobbies include reading, listening to music in a variety of styles and collecting movies and old time radio programs.

Ways to Connect

  As waters from the recent flood rush from the Midlands toward the coast, the South Carolina Department of Transportation already has 200 engineers in 35 teams inspecting roads and bridges to assemble a priority list of what needs doing first, as troopers from the Department of Public Safety work to keep people safe and observing road closings.

Some smaller jobs are already being done, says DOT spokesman Pete Poore, who adds that the department has a resource little known to most – a small supply of pre-cast concrete and steel bridges to speed some bridge replacements.

As people are digging out from the effects of the state’s historic floods and keeping an eye out for what’s next, they may not be aware of the storm’s effects on another phase of South Carolina life:  its wildlife. 

The cleanup process has  begun for many Midlands residents following the historic rain and floods that hit the state over the weekend.  Hampton Oliver and Tammy Moshier recall their rescues by good hearted strangers, the damage to their homes and what they’ve learned from an experience they hope no one will go through again.

Forest Drive near Four Paws, Columbia Classical Ballet and other businesses were heavily damaged by floodwaters in South Carolina's October flood.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Though the sun is out and some flood waters are receding, there is still danger from ruptured streets, bridges and dams across the Midlands and across much of South Carolina. In the Midlands, authorities including the Columbia Police Dept., Richland County Sheriff, Columbia Fire Dept., the military and even SLED are teaming to comb the area and offer assistance to those in distress.

Forest Drive near Four Paws, Columbia Classical Ballet and other businesses were heavily damaged by floodwaters in South Carolina's October flood.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

  In the wake of historic rainfall and flooding, South Carolina is only beginning to dig its way out while still experiencing rain and high waters. Two Columbia businesses, the Four Paws Animal Clinic and the Columbia Classical Ballet, are assessing the damage from a distance, as both buildings are largely or completely underwater.

Owners Nori Warren of Four Paws and Radenko Pavlovich of CCB share an uncertainty about what’s next, but both are determined that they will continue to offer their services, whether in their present locations or elsewhere.

Harvey Teal of Columbia is one of about 300 bottle collectors in South Carolina.  It’s a hobby that’s centuries old, and some bottles can be very valuable, as well as being pleasing to the eye and revealing part of the history of the times they were made in.   Teal tells us about the rare bottles from the South Carolina Dispensary, the state monopoly on liquor set up by Gov. Ben Tillman in 1892, and about some of the unusual places and lengths collectors can go to, to discover these relics of cultures past.

Preventing Suicide

Sep 24, 2015

  South Carolina ranks 26th among the states in the number of suicides. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention works to lower the rate of suicide. One way it raises awareness is the Out of the Darkness walks, a series of which will take place around the state in October and November. In this South Carolina Focus report, AFSP representatives Helen Pridgen and Dennis Gillan, and suicidologist Dr. Ron Maris, offer information on suicide’s causes, and prevention.

  Wild hogs have been a problem for farmers and others for decades in South Carolina and most other states. The damage they cause nationally to crops, landscaping, competing wildlife and natural resources amounts to $1.5 billion a year, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. South Carolina farmer Donnie Wakefield tells us how increasing herds, or sounders, of wild pigs cause $30-50,000 in damage annually to his operation, and USDA representative Noel Myers explains why the numbers of these invasive creatures are growing.

"America After Charleston" host Gwen Ifill
Michael O'Bryon

It’s been three months since a lone white gunman killed nine worshipers at a Bible study at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church. Tonight (9/21) at 9 p.m., PBS and ETV will air “America After Charleston,” a town hall meeting taped this past Saturday at Charleston’s Circular Congregational Church. Moderator Gwen Ifill, co-anchor of PBS News Hour, and two of the town hall’s panelists, NAACP President Cornell Brooks and S.C. State Rep. Jenny Horne, offer thoughts on the discussion and the importance of coming together to listen to others.

Football players in action

  Among the familiar sounds of football season, along with referee’s whistles and marching bands, is the voice of the play-by-play announcer, broadcasting all the action for audiences of fans. Though Mike Legg is only in his second year with The Citadel, he’s a 15-year veteran of calling sports events. Jimmie Coggins has been behind the microphone for Newberry College since 1982. Both men are hard-core sports followers, and they talk about what makes a good play-by-play man, and share some memorable moments calling games.

  In the past year, 38 sick or injured sea turtles have been rescued and rehabilitated at the sea turtle hospital operated by the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston, the only such facility in the state. In this SC Focus, we follow Turtle Rescue Program Director Kelly Thorvalson on a tour of the facility and learn from her and public relations manager Kate Ditloff about the planned expansion of this facility, which is in need of more space to handle the increasing number of injured sea turtles being brought to the hospital. The facility has an excellent record of healing injured turtles, but the iconic reptiles still face many problems in a changing environment.


  More than $2 million is lost to fraud in South Carolina every year, says Juliana Harris of the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs. The department tracks scams in the state, and receives 3,000 to 4,000 reports of these crimes each year. Harris lists some of the more common scams, how consumers can spot them, and how people can avoid being taken in by scammers.

Race car driver
Parker Anderson

  For more than half a century, one of NASCAR’s greatest races, the Southern 500, was held on Labor Day weekend. In 2003 the race was moved, and for the next dozen years was held on various days from March to November. NASCAR fans are now celebrating the return of the Bojangles Southern 500 to its traditional home slot, as this year’s race will be held once again on the weekend before Labor Day. Some of those happy about the return include Gov. Nikki Haley, NASCAR drivers Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick (the defending Southern 500 champion) and super fan William McElveen.


Larry Doby, 1953
Bowman Gum [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

  Camden native Larry Doby was the first African American to play Major League Baseball in the American League, joining the Cleveland Indians on July 5, 1947, just 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the National League with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Indians recently honored Doby with a statue outside Progressive Stadium in Cleveland. Camden is justifiably proud of Doby – who was the first black player on a World Series Championship team – as is evidenced by the comments of Camden Archives and Museum Director Catherine Richardson and Tom Didato, sports editor with the Camden Chronicle Independent.

USS Hornet (CV-8) with USS Gwin (DD-433) during Doolittle Raid 1942.

  In 1945, the Japanese surrendered to end World War II on Sept. 2, officially observed as V-J Day in the United States. But few people realize that the road to victory began with America’s first victory – at least, psychologically – over Japan: the Doolittle Raid, in which 16 B-25 bombers launched from the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hornet bombed Tokyo in the first strike back at Japan after Pearl Harbor. James Scott, author of the new book “Target Tokyo,” talks about the raid, its affect both on America’s morale and Japan’s sense of invincibility, and how South Carolina played a part in this historic event: the raiders were first assembled and volunteered for this dangerous and daring mission in Columbia.

Drink Small

  He was born in Bishopville but has resided in Columbia since 1955, entertaining thousands of audiences with his mix of humor and blues (and more) music. He’s one of a kind. He’s Drink Small, the “Blues Doctor.” The uniqueness that has made him a state treasure has now gone national. After six decades, numerous albums and travels around the country and the world, the National Endowment of the Arts has named Small a National Heritage Fellow, its most prestigious award in the folk arts. At a celebration in Small’s honor by the City of Columbia and the S.C. Arts Commission, we hear the Blues Doctor rouse an admiring and appreciative crowd with his music and the humorous sayings he calls “Drink-isms.”

  The number of women’s colleges has declined severely over the past 50 years, from 230 to 45. A variety of causes is blamed, from more acceptance at coed colleges to some being located in small, remote towns. Beth Dinndorf, president of Columbia College, tells how her school has defied the trend and talks about how women’s colleges can compete and stay relevant in the 21st century. Columbia College student Laura Mauer tells us that she doesn’t miss the distractions of men on campus and lists some of the advantages that she sees in women’s colleges.

A coyote

  Wildlife does not recognize borders, and so in 1978, a non-native species, welcomed or not, moved into the Palmetto State – the coyote. It has not only caused problems for hunters ( where it has affected the deer population) and livestock farmers (where it preys on cattle, goats and more), but also has moved into cities, causing concerns among people not used to seeing these wild predators. Jay Butfiloski of the S.C. Dept. of Natural Resources gives advice about how to deal with these furry beasts, whether it’s trapping or hunting in rural areas, or making urban settings less hospitable for them.

  It’s National Farmer’s Market Week, and BetterDoctor.com, an online consumer health site, has named the South Carolina state Farmer’s Market the number 5 community-oriented farmer’s market in the nation. We talk with market Manager Brad Boozer and vendor Jason McCarter about what makes the market a top 5 market, and how it attracts wholesalers from as far away as New York to the Midlands of South Carolina to buy produce.

  As thousands watched, the Confederate battle flag was lowered from beside the Confederate soldier monument on the State House grounds for the last time Friday, July 10. It was presented to the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, where it eventually will be exhibited. Relic Room Director Allen Roberson talks about the flag and the museum’s intentions to exhibit it appropriately after a thoughtful plan is formed.

The Confederate battle flag on the grounds of the South Carolina State House, July 9, 2015.
Jim Covington

  In an historic move, the South Carolina House of Representatives early Thursday morning followed the Senate’s vote with its own vote to take down the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds. Several dozen people braved the noonday sun of the capital grounds Thursday to take pictures, be witnesses to history and soak up the atmosphere in anticipation of the flag’s removal. A number of them reflected on the flag and its meaning, and gave their opinions of the historic event.

  One of the most iconic marketing images in American history is the classic Coca Cola bottle. The familiar design turns 100 years old this year. But most folks don’t know that that familiarity was helped along by the millions of these bottles that were made in Laurens, S.C.

  People from all walks of life lined up for hours on Friday, June 26 for the funeral of state Sen. Clementa Pinckney. The senator also was the beloved pastor of Charleston’s historic Emanuel AME Church, where the shooting of nine people at a Bible study the week before shocked the nation. Among those in the line was SCETV President and CEO Linda O’Bryon, who met and interviewed the Rev. Dr. Bill McGill, pastor of Imani Baptist Temple in Fort Wayne, Indiana, as they stood waiting to be admitted to the arena where the funeral was held. McGill shared his thoughts on the occasion, and why he felt its importance compelled him to make the long journey to be in attendance.

  If there’s one food South Carolinians love, it’s barbecue.  Just in time for July 4 cookouts, we talk with Lake High, barbecue historian and co-founder of the South Carolina Barbecue Association, about the origins of barbecue, the variety of barbecue sauce types enjoyed in South Carolina (more than in any other state), and why, at the growing number of barbecue competitions statewide, South Carolina barbecue judges are the best in the nation.

  As the funeral services begin for the victims of the tragic slayings at Charleston’s historic Emanuel AME Church, remembrances by their friends and loved ones continue. Perhaps most noted was State Senator Clementa Pinckney, who was also pastor of Emanuel AME. As his influence was being felt across the globe, a group of his colleagues gathered to tell stories and share memories of the beloved minister and public servant.

State Troopers bear the body of Sen. Clementa Pinckney to the South Carolina State House rotunda on Wednesday.
David Hunt

  State Senator Clementa Pinckney was not only a respected member of the South Carolina legislature, he was also a father, a husband and a friend to many people in and out of South Carolina. In addition, he was the beloved pastor of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. In this report we hear from several of those who knew him well, and learn how their lives were touched by Pinckney.

  In the wake of the shootings at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, a renewed effort has arisen to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the State House. Among those calling for its removal is Gov. Nikki Haley, but there remain prominent South Carolinians on both sides of the issue. Today we hear from two of them: State Representative Jonathan Hill of Anderson, a republican who represents House District 8, and the Rev. Nelson Rivers IIL, long time Civil Rights activist and Vice President of Religious Affairs and External Relations for the National Action Network.

Linda O'Bryon

  The tragic shootings in Charleston last week shocked and saddened South Carolinians and all Americans.  But the resilience of Charlestonians shone through as they returned violence and hate with forgiveness.  In this report, U.S. Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina’s sixth congressional district remembers his friend, pastor and State Senator Clementa Pinckney, and gives his thoughts on why and how Charleston has remained  calm and has come together to heal after the tragedy.

  This week on South Carolina Focus, we learn more about an eagerly-awaited annual event in the Palmetto State – the Miss South Carolina Pageant, which will be broadcast on statewide TV Saturday, June 27. Executive Producer Jay Pitts gives us an insight into the many elements – lighting, music, choreography, costumes and more - that go into making the spectacle that is the pageant, which will originate from Columbia’s Township Auditorium. Additional perspective comes from one of the contestants, Miss Hilton Head Island – who just happens to be ETV Radio’s own Kate McKinney!

Red Bellied Snake
Savannah River Ecology Laboratory

    This week on South Carolina Focus, we talk with Jim Knight, one of the state’s leading herpetologists, or reptile experts. He’s been studying and handling snakes, his specialty, for more than half a century, and now that summer is approaching, he says people who are out and about in the woods, on the lakes or even in their yards, may encounter a snake. Knight imparts some good advice on what to do in these unexpected meetings, and reminds us of the important role that snakes play in the cycle of nature, and perhaps even in the future treatment of some diseases as well.